#CureChat: A Conversation About Melanoma And Clinical Trials With T.J. Sharpe
We continue to get to know remarkable people with our monthly #CureChat tweetchats. This month’s featured guest, cancer advocate and blogger, T.J. Sharpe, is no exception.
In August 2012, twelve years after surviving a diagnosis of stage I melanoma, and just weeks after the birth of his second child, T.J., then 37 years old, walked into his local emergency room with what he thought was a spiking fever. Over the course of what became his 16-day hospital stay, doctors discovered that he had lesions throughout his body—tumors in both lungs, in his spleen and liver, and what he calls “the granddaddy of tumors” an 8-cm mass pressing against his small bowel. His initial cancer had metastasized, and he now had a diagnosis of Stage IV melanoma. When T.J. left the hospital, he had a recommendation for standard chemotherapy and a prognosis of “lucky to be here in two years.”
This, however, was just not good enough for T.J. and his young family. After researching his disease, innovations in cancer treatment including immunotherapy, and reaching out to his network of friends and colleagues—including a college buddy on Wall Street and contacts in the Pharma industry—T.J. and his wife Jen set out to hunt down a better solution. Several second opinions later, he landed at Moffitt Cancer Center, where he was finally offered the option of joining a clinical trial.
“As best I can describe TIL− a tumor is removed, t-cells are harvested from that tumor, and then multiplied into billions, to be reinserted into my body to fight the tumors. My study gives four doses of Yervoy (a new melanoma immunotherapy drug) with the TIL part inserted in between doses two and three. It’s also the first time this combination of drugs/treatments have been given in this order and this closely together, as far as the doctors can tell−hence, Patient #1. TIL is only being done domestically at Moffitt, MD Anderson in Houston, and the NCI in Maryland.”
When that trial failed, it was time for Plan B, and T.J. found a second immunotherapy trial, that he describes in his post: “Patient #1: Is PD-1 the answer?
Now considered having a “complete response,” the equivalent of No Evidence of Disease (NED), T.J. has had his share of experiences in the clinical trial ecosystem. He will share his story, wisdom and insights with us on our chat.
T1. T.J.’s story. In the first part of the chat, we’ll yield the floor to T.J. who will tell us his story 140 characters at a time. Then we’ll move on to the discussion to explore the following topics:
T2. It’s 2017, innovations in cancer treatment abound: what does it mean to do your homework when you get a cancer diagnosis?
- Research, research, research and beyond.
- Become aware of the power of your network. Reach out and reach out.
T3. What is #Immunotherapy? T.J. had to learn all about it for #melanoma
T4. It’s 2017, you are offered a Clinical Trial. It helps if you can understand the Clinical Trial Ecosystem.
- Who are the stakeholders?
- What is your role/power?
T5. You’re offered a choice of clinical trials: how to decide which (if any) are for you?
T6. Tips to build your self-advocacy skills.
Get started and a Cure Forward Clinical Trial Navigator will help you access active clinical trial options.